Time and again on this page, we've defended the right of citizens to refer certain decisions made by local units of government to a vote of the people.
It is, after all, the American way.
We fear, however, that the 616 citizens who signed petitions to refer the Clay County Commission's recent decision to enact a wheel tax likely aren't aware of the serious transportation challenges that either already are in place, or soon will be looming.
On June 14, Clay County adopted a wheel tax ordinance. It puts a fee of $4 per wheel for vehicles over 2,000 pounds and $2 per wheel on vehicles under 2,000 pounds, with a maximum of $16 per vehicle. It won't be known until late August, however, whether such a tax will be introduced in Clay County.
Vermillion resident Paul Hasse decided to fight the wheel tax. He took out petitions, and with the help of about a dozen people, gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a vote. The election will be held Aug. 28.
We hope voters use common sense and approve the wheel tax.
We can't argue with the actions of Hasse and friends. Like we said earlier, they have the right to try to stop the tax.
We just wish he and the other petition circulators would state what they would have the county commission do if efforts to kill the tax are successful.
Some substantial road projects await the county commission. We are fortunate to have some members on that body who want to make sure our transportation infrastructure will be in good shape as we enter an exciting, progressive era.
Polaris is expanding. Masaba Industries is growing. Vermillion's public school enrollment is climbing, and Wakonda and Irene have met the challenge of declining student numbers by consolidating.
Sometime in the near future, the Glacial Lakes ethanol plant will be constructed near Meckling.
Eventually, a treatment plant for the Lewis & Clark Water System will be built in rural Vermillion.
The growth of local industries naturally means a growth in employee numbers as well. Those people will have to drive here. One may argue that they won't all utilize county roads, and they would be right.
Some may be lucky enough to take advantage of state highways or our Interstate system, which we also pay taxes to maintain.
It won't be long before school districts in Vermillion and Wakonda/Irene begin a new year. That means buses will soon begin the ritual of picking up students every morning and returning them home every evening. Students who also choose to drive will be making the jaunt from home to school and back home again, day after day – many of them on county roads which we must make sure are safe.
We can't put enough emphasis on the importance of having a good farm-to-market road system in Clay County. This has always been true, but it's a goal that certainly must reign supreme these days as we await the construction of the Glacial Lakes ethanol plant near Meckling.
Clay County has had to put several road projects on hold because of lack of funding, and at the same time, the cost of the needed road work keeps climbing. Those projects include Fairview Avenue, the west half of Timber Road, 452nd Avenue and 313 Street.
The wheel tax would generate approximately $200,000 annually that would be earmarked solely for county road work. That doesn't seem like much, but such a reliable revenue source would allow the county to finance expensive road projects and pay off the loans over time.
We wish we knew what Hasse and friends plan to do if their efforts are successful and the wheel tax isn't approved. Will they lobby the state Legislature to double the cost of license plates and raise the state tax on gasoline and diesel fuel?
The extra revenues could be used to help reduce the growing backlog of county, city and township road work, and make driving in Clay County just a bit safer.
The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.